Whooping cough at all-time high in Snohomish County
EVERETT - Whooping cough cases have hit an all-time high in Snohomish County, and the first case at a school has been reported.
As of Sept. 13, the Snohomish Health District has reported 507 cases of whooping cough, also known as pertussis, this year, eclipsing the 226 reported in 2011.
A student at Mukilteo’s Voyager Middle School reported having whooping cough during the first week of school, health district spokeswoman Suzanne Pate said last week. Health officials do not believe the student needed hospitalization.
So far, whooping cough has caused nine hospitalizations: six were infants, three were adults.
Dr. Gary Goldbaum, health district health officer and director, expects whooping cough to remain at epidemic levels for at least the next year.
Whooping cough in Snohomish County was declared an epidemic last fall when cases began rising.
Health officials are still urging adults to get the Tdap vaccine, which stands for tetanus, diphtheria and pertussis.
Whooping cough affects infants hardest because their immune systems are not fully developed. Infants cannot receive a childhood whooping cough vaccine until they are two months old.
Last year a Lake Stevens infant died from whooping cough.
The Snohomish Health District is seeing new cases start to level off, but the number is still high. There were 447 cases confirmed on Aug. 3; 494 confirmed on Aug. 29 and 502 on Sept. 7. There were 270 cases confirmed by early May.
Goldbaum predicts the epidemic will subside once the population reaches a tipping point where most of the population is vaccinated.
“Over time more of the population will be immune,” to whooping cough, stopping the person-to-person spread, Goldbaum said. He can’t predict when that tipping point will be reached.
“It’s a reminder we need to get everyone vaccinated,” Goldbaum said.
The health district is still offering vaccines to low-income and uninsured people through many regional pharmacies.
At pharmacies, 750 vaccine doses have been given out since the pharmacy program started in May, said Rita Mell, the health district’s vaccine and preventable disease director. The district has ordered 500 more doses at a low cost from pharmaceutical company Sanofi-Pastor.
In Snohomish County, whooping cough cases tend to ebb and flow. There were spikes in the early 1980s, mid-1990s and early 2000s, but none reached the levels of this epidemic, state Department of Health figures show.
Goldbaum can’t pinpoint why cases are higher than ever during this epidemic, but suggested three reasons: The county has more people, it’s more urban and the vaccine for whooping cough was reformulated.
The reformulated vaccine is weaker than before, but it avoids side effects the old vaccine caused, Goldbaum said.
The old vaccine was produced by grinding up whooping cough bacteria into the shot; the new vaccine uses cells of whooping cough to make the shot, Goldbaum said.
CDC studying effect of adult vaccine
Scientists from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention will be using Washington state as the study site on the effectiveness of the Tdap vaccine, Goldbaum announced last week.
The Tdap vaccine is a relatively recent development, which partially explains why most adults have not received it.
The CDC is reviewing local medical records to determine how long immunity lasts after the Tdap is administered.
A new study on the children’s version of the vaccine, the DTaP, suggests the vaccine wanes during the five years after the last dose. Lead author Dr. Nicola Klein of the Kaiser Permanente Vaccine Study Center suggests reformulating the vaccine again to make it last longer. The study was published last week in the New England Journal of Medicine.
The pharmacies in Snohomish County participating in the low-cost vaccine program are:
• Arlington Pharmacy, 540 West Ave.
Bartell Drugs pharmacies:
• Bothell, 22833 Bothell-Everett Highway and 18001 Bothell-Everett Highway
• Edmonds, 23028 100th Ave West
• Everett, 5006 132nd St. SE, Bldg. A
• Lake Stevens, 621 SR 9 NE
• Lynnwood, 17633 Hwy. 99 and 3625 148th St. SW, Suite B
• Snohomish, 1115 13th St.
• Stanwood, 7205 267th St. NW
• Edmonds, 22828 100th Ave. West
• Everett, 4919 Evergreen Way and 2615 Broadway
• Mill Creek, 926 164th St. SE
• Stanwood, 27008 92nd Ave. NW
The offer is available to low-income residents who make 200 percent or less than the federal poverty level. For a family of two, that’s an income of $30,260 or less a year; for a family of four, that’s $46,100 or less a year. While the pharmacy will not charge for the cost of the vaccine, it may charge up to $15 for giving the shot.
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